Gail was originally a piece I submitted for a writing exercise in a workshop I attended late last year. The class was asked to describe a fictional character’s day in less than 1,000 words. The exercise was supposed to ape a regular column in The Observer, in which someone from a different profession each week will dispassionately bullet-point their day. Often their job is very remarkable or dangerous, like a paramedic or fireman or hospice nurse, so there’s a sort of implied worthiness to the article.
I only discovered this after I submitted my piece because I’ve never actually read the column. I wrote Gail as a piece of flash fiction, as opposed to in the style of the original column, which the rest of my class did. Regardless, I liked the story and scatter-shot it out into the internet, hoping someone else would like it too.
Gail came about because I really wanted to take a stab at writing a female character. Most of my characters have been adolescent boys so far so it felt time for a change. I wanted Gail to be essentially good, but blinkered in some ways by her upbringing and the oppressive circumstances of her home life, which I hope helps to prevent her from coming across as too saintly.
It’s important that I like my characters. I’ve written stories with unlikable protagonists and I’ve found myself leaning too heavily into my disdain for them, rendering them monstrous. Gail, I think, would have very different political and cultural opinions to me, but were I to meet her we’d probably get on okay.